Felicio Chapter 16 – Forging a Path to Hell

Peter was sitting in the cloisters of the college. He was leaning back with his chair propped against the wall and his legs resting on the table, appearing completely at ease. He casually glanced around the immediate area and thought to himself how different everybody seemed now, as those that surrounded him had also attended the party. They were all either working studiously or huddled together in their separate cliques, but Peter knew they were all secretly united under the banner of Star Children. He found it strange that none of them seemed to acknowledge their common bond and he wondered what dark impulses were swimming around their tortured, fragile minds.  

                However, he was in good spirits and his thoughts didn’t linger on that subject for too long because they inevitably drifted towards the angelic presence of Stacy, who had already enriched his life even though they had only known each other a few days. They had met for their first proper date and a few moments with her quelled his fears that their attraction was only a product of the magic of the midnight air. Since then he hadn’t been able to stop grinning and the world didn’t seem like such a dreary place.

“What’s up with you?” Stephanie asked as she sat down beside him. So far Peter had kept the recent developments from her, and had only hinted that something big had happened, but he was bursting with excitement and as soon as she sat down he let fly a flurry of words.

                “You’ll never believe this but I just met an amazing girl, literally amazing. I mean me, meeting a girl completely at random? Can you believe it? Well, I mean I was Felicio at the time but then she learned who I really am. I actually had a date! And it was so fun, at first I was freaking out, you know what I’m like, but we just started talking and we just…we just click, you know? It feels so natural being with her. It’s like she brings out this whole other side of me…and she’s so pretty, so, so pretty, I mean beautiful, her hair and her voice and her laugh she’s just…oh she’s so amazing. I don’t know what she’s doing with me because she’s way out of my league but I’m just going to try and enjoy it. I’m also pretty glad that she took off my mask I mean, at first I freaked out but now that I think about it, it saved me a whole lot of angst.”

                Stephanie smiled as he rambled on, amused at her friend’s reaction. She was happy for him, she often worried about him because he seemed to be too lonely sometimes but it was good that he was touched by romance. However, she felt she needed to know more about this girl because she was very protective of him.

“Okay Pete I get the picture, slow down,” she calmly urged.”

“Sorry, I’m just so excited!”

“So what’s the deal with this girl, what’s she like?”

“Well her name’s Stacy, she’s an aspiring model. She loves history, the Victorian period in particular, lilacs are her favourite flowers, she’s a dog person-”

“How ironic.”

“I know right, but hey, um, yeah, she loves musicals, hates tomatoes, doesn’t really understand why so many girls seem to love horses, she’d love to see the world but not the random countries because she’s really scared of getting a rare disease. She’s also never been on a rollercoaster and she doesn’t plan to.”

“Interesting,” Stephanie said, nodding slightly and then, with a genuine smile she added, “I’m really glad for your Pete, it’s about time something like this happened. You’re a great guy.”

“Thanks,” he said appreciatively and then, realising that he was monopolising the conversation, he tried to take an interest in her.

“And how’s your love life, what’s happening with that guitarist?”

“Bassist.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah it’s uh…I think I’m going to wait ‘til uni before I start anything serious.” At her mention of uni Peter looked away into the distance. “Have you thought about it anymore?” she asked, unsure of whether to broach the subject given the results the last couple of times she had tried. However, this time he didn’t explode with anger but he answered the question with a detached sigh. At the more thought of the future a bundle of fears spooled out in his mind and filled up every crevice of his soul with a dark sense of foreboding, as if the whole course of his life hinged on one decision, one moment and he was utterly unprepared. Instead of facing the problem he tried to force it away, but no man could stem the flow of time and it would linger. He knew the futility and the irrationality of his actions yet he felt completely unable to make any firm decision, it was as if all the possibilities of his life were finely balanced, and if he were to outstretch his hand and clutch one the others, and all the potentialities within them, would fall away, leaving him with only one path to follow.

“I honestly don’t know, I have started looking at brochures though,” he lied. He didn’t know why he lied, it just seemed easier than telling the truth sometimes. She knew him well enough to know that he was lying, yet she decided not to confront him about it because he’d only storm off. Besides, it was time for her to be getting to class so she repeated her congratulations and left him to bask in the glory of his triumph.

                As she rounded the corner she was surprised to bump into Emma. She smiled at her and said hello, but Emma had a look of shock and the colour was drained from her face. Her mouth was agape with fear and she was looking around wildly. Stephanie offered help but Emma backed away and ran, trying to stop the tears streaming down her face. People stared at her as her long legs gracefully strode through the college until she was out in the cold again, alone, the only time when the world was quiet. However, the only downside of being alone was that instead of her head being filled with the thoughts of others, it was filled with her own thoughts and sometimes those plagued her more than anything else.

                She wasn’t sure whether she loved Peter, but in her young, inexperienced mind the feeling was similar enough to elicit strong reactions and when she sensed his thoughts it sent her into a spiral of confusion. Peter was the only boy she’d met that seemed to understand what she was going through, he was the only one she felt comfortable revealing her secret and he made her feel like it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, and that she could actually put it to good use. But oh, how foolish she had been to think that he could have seen anything more in here than a frightened, troubled little girl. When she peered into his mind she saw the same doubts and fears she held about herself reflected, and it would have been so natural and so easy for them to fall for each other. But it was clear now that he had never even considered that possibility, after all, she grimly thought, who would want to go out with someone who knew everything about you without asking. Every secret, every lie, every stray thought was hers to witness and she hated it.

                Often she had bemoaned her lot in life but in this moment she truly despised it, why couldn’t she just be normal? she asked herself repeatedly but no answer came. ‘You’re special,’ Katrina always told her, but special didn’t mean a damned thing. Who’d want to be special when it meant you were alone and unloved? She walked on, wishing there was a way to silence the voices in her head but she feared they would torment her until her dying day. And in that moment, when she took her last breath, she knew that her last thought wouldn’t be her own, but an echo of somebody else’s.

                She walked away, shrouded in the wintry mist and looked back at the college. It was a house of normal people living normal lives, and as much as she thought Peter was different she knew now that he was the same as them. They would all get to fall in love and be happy, and she would be able to feel what it was like through them but it would only be a phantom and she would never know it for herself.

 

***

 

Ash cackled with glee as he felt another body go limp. He released it and watched the dented skull fall helplessly to the floor. The madman’s mission was to catch Felicio’s attention and draw him out, and Ash threw himself into his duty with a passionate frenzy. He moved through the edges of the town, leaving a wake of bloodied meat sacks behind him. Scarlet spots peppered his body and he walked around menacingly with a crazed stare. His gang followed close behind but he didn’t pay any attention to them. He walked with inexorable purpose, his packed muscular body bristling with intense fury. He didn’t care who he maimed, they were all but means to an end. People tried to run away but the whirlwind of hell subdued them and left them for Ash and his gang to pick at the carcasses. A demon had been let loose and there was only one who could stop him.

 

Felicio ran along the rooftops, surveying the scene below. The wail of police sirens couldn’t drown out the mad screams and the flashing blue and red lights were too few in number to make a difference. Buildings crackled with fire, as if the devil was taking hold of the earth. Felicio had a vantage point the police did not, and he saw that there was a clear trail, leading back to the edge of the docks. He sprinted forward, a black spectre of the night. He wished he could help the people below but he feared there was something much more dangerous up ahead, whoever was causing this maelstrom of chaos needed to be stopped.

                He followed the trail through the burning houses and past shattered windows. Screaming people ran in terror while others took delight in the opportunity to abandon the veil of civility and reclaim their savage, bestial nature. Soon enough the smoke cleared and Felicio found himself at one of the abandoned areas of the docks. The salty smell of seawater mingled with the pungent aroma of mould and grime which nauseated him. The ground was rocky and uneven, bits of sharp metal protruded in a jagged manner and as he walked on he realised that he was walking into a death trap of an arena, because the sight before him shook him to the core. Ash was standing proudly, muscles rippling, baring his primal might to the world. In one hand he held a severed arm, for once Felicio wished his sight wasn’t enhanced because he had to look at the sharp points of snapped bone hang loosely out of the arm, and the ligaments and muscles hung like tassels and swung in the air as Ash waved the arm about. In the other hand he held an axe. The metal glistened in the moonlight but the razor sharp edge was stained with crimson.

                Felicio carefully strode forward and Ash waited with a disgusting grimace on his face, by now blood had encrusted on his skin and he wore it like a mask. He was more monster than man.

“I’m here to end you,” he savagely growled, tossing the arm away and wielding the axe. Felicio unsheathed his claws and readied himself for the onslaught. 

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